Michael Richards, Seinfeld’s Kramer, Racist Tirade Video
TMZ has a very blurry video of what purports to be Michael Richards launching a bizarre, racist tirade at a black member of his audience.
Richards, who played the wacky Cosmo Kramer on the hit TV show “Seinfeld,” appeared onstage at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. Kyle Doss, an African-American, told TMZ he and some friends were in the cheap seats and he was playfully heckling Richards when suddenly, the comedian lost it.
The camera started rolling just as Richards began his attack, screaming at one of the men, “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass.” Richards continued, “You can talk, you can talk, you’re brave now motherf**ker. Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! A nigger, look, there’s a nigger!”
The crowd is visibly and audibly confused and upset. Richards responds by saying, “They’re going to arrest me for calling a black man a nigger.”
One of the men who was the object of Richard’s tirade was outraged, shouting back “That’s un-f***ing called for, ain’t necessary.”
After the three-minute tirade, it appears the majority of the audience members got up and left in disgust.
One would think.
Here’s the video:
Even compared to the infamous Mel Gibson rant, this is quite inexplicable.
Update: Shakespeare’s Sister writes, “I’ll never be able to watch an episode of Seinfeld again without thinking about that loathsome tirade—and I certainly won’t be completing my collection of the series on the DVD, lest another penny of my money end up in his pocket.” I’m generally able to compartmentalize my views of performers’ personal lives and their entertainment value; otherwise, I would be boycotting most of Hollywood. (I won’t be buying the Seinfeld DVD’s, either, but then I wasn’t before this.)
She links an interesting CNN report on the incident at YouTube which, interestingly, does not allow embedding but works at the moment on the site. Richards is back at work at the comedy club, it seems.
Meanwhile, Pajama Media’s Tel Aviv correspondent quips, “[I]t’s not like his career can afford to take the hit. But who knows? Maybe Mel Gibson has a part for him in his next movie.”
UPDATE: Richards offered a lame apology on Letterman.
He called two black hecklers the “n-word” and enthusiastically referenced a time when blacks were often victims of civil rights abuses, but Michael Richards said his verbal barrage during a stand-up routine was fueled by anger and not bigotry. “For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry,” the former “Seinfeld” co-star said during a satellite appearance for David Letterman’s “Late Show” in New York. “I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this,” Richards said, his tone becoming angry and frustrated as he defended himself. Richards described himself as going into “a rage” over the two audience members who interrupted his act Friday at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood.
His explanation was reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s assertion that he wasn’t anti-Semitic after he let off a barrage of Jewish slurs during a traffic stop last summer: despite what came out of his mouth, that’s not what is inside him.
Industry colleagues were in no hurry to accept Richards’ apology.
“Once the word comes out of your mouth and you don’t happen to be African-American, then you have a whole lot of explaining,” comedian Paul Rodriguez, who was at the Laugh Factory during Richards’ performance, told CNN. “Freedom of speech has its limitations and I think Michael Richards found those limitations.”
Veteran publicist Michael Levine, whose clients have included comedians George Carlin, Sam Kinison and
Rodney Dangerfield, called Richards’ remarks inexcusable. Comics often face hecklers without losing their cool, he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Levine said Monday. “I think it’s a career ruiner for him. … It’s going to be a long road back for him, if at all.”
It’s ironic that Sam Kinison’s former publicist is outraged by this, as Kinison’s entire act was over-the-top misogyny. And I disagree with Rodriguez that the use of the “N-word” exceeds the boundaries of permissible free speech.
Still, speech has social consequences and Levine is likely right that this will cause substantial damage to Richards’ career.